The anti-war movement has been and is one of the most polarizing movements in the history of this great country. War brings a lot of emotion, and proud patriots who have fought for this country don’t want to see a bunch of people marching against what they have so valiantly defended. This clash creates a lot of friction. It has been one of the most controversial issues of our time outside of the civil rights campaigns. Where did this desire for peace begin? When was the first anti-war rally? Let’s dig into it a bit deeper.
In The Beginning…
The first real anti-war type group was called the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE). This group, as you can probably guess, became infamous during the nuclear arms race in the late 1950’s and 1960’s. Disillusioned with President Kennedy, SANE took it upon themselves to be advocates for the reduction of nuclear arms wold wide. Soon after, college campuses took up this newly-minted liberal peace activism and formed a group called the Student Peace Union (SPU). Members were as varied as ever; from the halls of the law school to the liberal arts classes new recruits could be found. As Joseph McCarthy began sniffing out communists, all of the other similar groups on college campuses faded into the background and SPU emerged as one of the few remaining options. While SANE called for a reduction in nuclear weapons, SPU went a step further: total nuclear disarmament. As one can imagine, this didn’t sit well with many people who were afraid Russia was about to send a nuclear surprise to the United States at any point.
After the SANE and SPU, there were several other movements that were linked to or derived from the Civil Rights movement. People were starting to feel their personal power and getting excited that great change can happen if many people stand as one. Anyone with an idea and ambition could create a cause and go to work. Things got into full swing in 1965 when the United States began to bomb North Vietnam. SDS, or Students for a Democratic Society, began organizing massive marches at stations where troops were deployed in California to attempt to convey their massive disapproval and expand the scope of the protests onto a national level.
How Did It Gain Traction?
We all know how vehemently contested the Vietnam war was. It was due to, in part, these so-called democratic freedom or peace unions. As discontent with the war grew, people were looking for something to support that didn’t support the war. During this time, the anti-war movement grew by leaps and bounds. Some people, like Dr. Martin Luther King, openly expressed sympathy for the anti-war movement and spoke out against war on a moral basis. African Americans were rallied by Kings statements as well as the fact that a disproportionate number of them were dying in these wars when compared to whites Americans. This pushed the anti-war movement into a whole new realm and tied it tightly into the Civil Rights movement.
There have been many legal battles fought over the anti-war movement. More recently, in 2004, a carload of peaceful protestors was detained while going to an anti-war rally aimed at the Iraq war America had entered into a few years prior as a result of the terrorist attacks on 911. While many good lawyers and paralegals doing their best spent their days trying to counter the protestors arguments, in the end the protestors won out.